Gov Kandola, our Head of Transportation & Logistics, is kicking off a new podcast series on sustainability in his sector. Here, you can read his interview with JAS Worldwide’s Andrea Goeman.
Welcome back to the Venari Podcast. I'm Gov Kandola, and we're joined today by Andrea Goeman to kick off a special series that will be focusing on sustainability across the wider transportation and logistics space.
Andrea is the SVP for Sustainability at JAS Worldwide. (For those of you who don't know, JAS is a leading third-party logistics provider.) Andrea, I just wanted to say welcome and Happy New Year!
Thank you, Gov, for the invitation to the podcast – and Happy New Year to all.
Hopefully, 2024 is a little better, or maybe more stable for logistics, compared to 2023. But we'll have to see. In this first episode of the Sustainability Series, we're going to be learning more about the current initiatives that JAS is engaged with, along with discussing topics such as regulatory advocacy, along with some future initiatives that we could expect to see.
So, to kick us off, Andrea, it would be great to understand more about JAS, and obviously some of the current initiatives that you're engaged with when it comes to sustainability.
Of course. My pleasure.
I started the journey working, or implementing sustainability at JAS, in 2023, so I’ve had almost a year in the job. And we really started with groundwork. So that was very exciting for me to really start from scratch, implementing a new sustainability function. I started by accessing the status quo with my key stakeholders in the organisation. It was really interesting to see what has been implemented also on a regional and local scale before I joined JAS, and then see the topic evolving throughout the year and to see the commitment and the excitement of the colleagues to work together on this topic.
So, we really focused on all three ESG dimensions. Starting from the environmental piece, and from my experience, the environmental piece is like the biggest challenge for our industry, right? We are the fourth-highest emitting industry worldwide. The other ones are, for example, energy production, industrial production, also agriculture. We have a very heavy footprint in the logistics industry and a responsibility to act towards carbon zero targets. The second pillar, of course, is social responsibility. There, we also have responsibilities towards human rights and our employees working in the warehouse on the ground. But also from a training perspective: for example, how do we engage with employees around the topic and make them also part of the sustainability journey, I would say. So, it's a lot about corporate culture and engagement with the ecosystem. And the third pillar, and maybe this is the most concerning for most companies, is really the governance piece. You know, we are facing a lot of new ESG regulation worldwide. We are coming from these heavy Fit for 55 regulations in the European Union, but we also see the scaling of these initiatives in other regions of the world, for example, in the U.S. and also some LATAM countries nowadays. So, we are facing increasing regulatory compliance demand from stakeholders. And this is also a very relevant investment criterion right now. When you want to apply for new credits, some banks are already starting to monitor your ESG performance. This is a development that, next to price and performance, is becoming a very relevant criterion for corporations. There is an increasing demand for companies to comply with these regulations.
Definitely. Yes. I think the crackdown that we are seeing now – that governance piece is so important as well to keep businesses accountable. I was going to say, from a JAS perspective, what are the main challenges the business is facing in the transition to zero carbon?
Right, so we are a third-party logistics provider. We don't own a lot of assets. Of course, we have owned warehouses in some countries; we also own assets like trucks or vehicles. But the most challenging part is, of course, our main lack for air and ocean freight. We are doing that for customers, from all sectors, from the production industry, for the automotive industry, for pharma and healthcare companies, etc. And our customers are pushing us towards fulfilling their carbon zero targets. We also need to monitor our suppliers towards their advancement and their innovations. So, where do I see the main challenges? Of course, in the airfreight piece, there’s a shortage of sustainable aviation fuel, SAF. We talk with our suppliers. But you know, this stuff is made out of used cooking oil and that's just the shortage right now. So, we see some industry players, also some shippers, buying big amounts of SAF. Which is, of course, good, because they're pushing the supply, but it takes a while to really build the infrastructure and refineries. And on the other side, we have ocean freight. The biofuel option for ocean freight is, I would say, more widely available, which is good, of course. But also, here we see the regulations evolving. In the European Union, for example, ETS charges will be implemented on 1 January. Already, from there, we see a natural evolvement of this topic. But for me, the challenges really are to get towards the net zero target in the airfreight industry by 2050. This will be a challenge because there are no electric cargo aeroplanes yet.
No, not yet! We might be quite a way from that. But those are some incredibly interesting topics and obviously, we can dive deeper into those as well. There's been a push from government and regulatory bodies to create solutions. But why should companies also engage in regulatory advocacy, do you think?
Yeah, it's important because depending on your risk exposure in the ESG criteria you have, the first step for you as a company or as a logistics provider is always to access your ESG risk and opportunities to do a materiality analysis, and to prepare for the changes to come. I think it's important to engage with the countries you operate in, depending on your risk exposure in these countries. But we see, for example, in Europe, the industry is already very advanced; I would say we are more advanced than in other countries, where we are probably already still in a pilot stage for sustainability. For some countries we operate in, the topic is really just kicking off right now, so there, we can really be advocates. Also, if you haven't studied sustainability, for example, you can still be an advocate for this topic and still get involved and implement local actions. I think it is very important to get started on this topic, rather than see it as a super big challenge. So, for me it's always important that our colleagues understand how they can make an impact also on a local level, but then also of course having the management view: what kind of risks and opportunities you have to cooperate on this topic.
Definitely, because usually it's only the external factors that are discussed in terms of the investment piece. But it's rare that people discuss how a company is coming across with their story, how it's coming across to their peers and how it's sold to wider individuals throughout the business as well, because it's such an important part. When individuals are joining businesses, they want to understand: what is the company that I'm joining doing, from this perspective, and how can I be involved? We're certainly hearing that more as a conversation, from a talent perspective as well.
In your opinion, given we've seen huge increase in risk associated with the global supply chain currently, how could the vendors and supplier relationship help mitigate these risks, especially when it comes to, let's say, human rights issues? You mentioned it briefly, that social piece.
Right. So, we are working on a third-party vendor management system to really get our suppliers on board for this topic. And there are various human rights due diligence laws already in place, for example, in Germany and other countries. And there are more to come. The European Union is working on regulation for the whole EU right now. So, we only see this topic of human rights evolving and we also see a lot of companies associate with these risks, especially the production industry, and here I think it's important to have a clear due diligence process with sequencing your suppliers. Start with the top risk and spend suppliers, and then go down your own supply chain; this is critical. There are, I think, great tools out there that also continuously monitor those risks. And if you find out something, you need to audit these suppliers and then discuss it with them. It’s always been easy to make this in the logistics industry, but these new regulations pose new challenges, also to us as logistics companies. I think this is a journey we cannot solve on our own, really; we need to onboard our suppliers, but also have close communication with our customer. Involving the whole ecosystem is really essential going forward. Definitely. Having a more open conversation is key.
Yeah, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I was going to say, from an executive search standpoint, sustainability is at the forefront of so many conversations we've had over the past couple of years. You know, there's a looming talent gap for businesses looking to scale teams or even create teams who have a focus within sustainability. Have JAS faced similar challenges?
For me, it was a great challenge and opportunity to build this function for JAS – and it's still evolving, I would say. So, the company was very excited. I was able to build a small but very powerful team of internal and external resources. But for me it was always the goal to get accountability from my key stakeholders in the company, right? So, with the leaders of the business unit, from the sales and financial teams, I'm having daily or weekly conversations. And you will be a function that is not very powerful from my experience. So really, you must have this management intention and develop solutions yourself. I have an entrepreneurial mindset, and when you start this whole journey yourself, you have to really have your feet on the ground. Implementing things and building things is my passion. And I think it was very well received in the first year, and there's much more to come.
I can imagine there is. There are many dotted lines that come out of sustainability; they go to ops, commercial, strategic. It's going to be incredibly important. I was going to say, finally: for JAS, what are the future initiatives we can expect to see?
We definitely want to scale our green solutions going forward. We’ve started already with cooperation in the industry with the provider for biofuels. So, we have already implemented our own solution. We really want to focus more on this sustainable solution and commercial approach, also educating our customers more about the topic. This is very exciting for me. Also, consulting our customers and building business cases for them – and with them – to make the topic more tangible and to strengthen our partnership. I think this is one important initiative we would build up on. A very exciting topic for me personally.
We are a family-owned business, so we had our shareholder initiative before COVID: the Bruni Foundation. This is the family foundation. So, in 2024, we are going to kick off our Pay it Forward programme. We allowed our employees to suggest their own corporate volunteering projects in their local community. And we have over 60 projects that we will be implementing throughout the year, going from planting trees, helping in the community, helping children and educational assistance. This is very exciting for me, because there we can make a real social impact in our five regions globally. And that's what it's all about, I think.
Definitely, yeah, that collaborative feel is so key and I'm looking forward to hearing more about what's happening with JAS. Obviously on your side, I know you're very active via LinkedIn and on the website as well. So, people who want to understand a little bit about JAS, I think should definitely look you up and learn a bit more.
I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to give us a bit more of an insight. Thank you for being part of the series!
Thank you so much, Gov. And yeah, Happy New Year again!
Happy New Year indeed!
This interview transcript has been lightly edited for conciseness and clarity.